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APC chairmanship aspirant Sheriff begs party members to disregard leaked audio

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A FORMER governor of Borno State Ali Modu Sheriff has asked members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to disregard a leaked conversation where some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) expressed hopes that he would become the next national chairman of the ruling party.

Sheriff is contesting for the position of APC national chairman and in the leaked audio, some PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) members mocked his ambition, suggesting that the APC would be weakened if he become the party’s leader.

Sheriff was formerly a member of the PDP and served as acting caretaker chairman of the party before defecting to the APC.

The conversation in the leaked audio reportedly took place at the PDP national convention and after praising the emergence of a former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu as PDP national chairman the PDP NEC members discussed the forthcoming APC national convention where Sheriff hopes to be elected national chairman.

“The APC are trying to bring Ali Modu Sheriff,” a voice in the leaked audio said.

“Sheriff? The same Ali Modu Sheriff that almost destroyed PDP?” another voice asked and the PDP NEC members involved in the conversation started laughing.

“That would be a walkover for PDP in 2023,” another voice in the audio declared.

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Yet another added: “That man (Sheriff) has baggage. As soon as Sheriff emerges the media will feast on him.”

The PDP NEC members expressed hopes that Sheriff would become the APC national chairman.

However, Sheriff has asked members of the APC, especially governors elected on the platform of the party, to disregard the leaked audio which mocked his chairmanship ambition.

Sheriff reacted to the leaked conversation through a statement issued by Head of the Media Directorate for the Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff Campaign Organisation (SASCO) Victor Lar.

Lar was a member of the National Assembly who represented Plateau South in the Senate from 2011 to 2015.

“The attention of Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff Campaign Organisation (SASCO) has been drawn to a purported leaked audio message claiming that some National Executive Committee (NEC) members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are fervently hoping that Sen. Ali-Modu Sheriff emerged as the All Progressives Congress (APC) next national chairman.

“I urge the public, APC members and governors in particular to note that the purported leaked audio message is baseless and untrue and should be disregarded, it should be treated as trash,” the statement released by Lar said.

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The statement alleged that “a two-term former governor of Borno and a current serving senator who is also interested in contesting the APC national chairmanship position” was behind the leaked audio.

But the concerned former governor of Borno State and current serving senator was not named.

“I had told the public that the two-term former Borno governor and current senator was hatching a plan to use the media to cause mischief and disaffection between Sheriff, APC governors and national leadership of the APC.

“Now he has launched his first phase of his attack with the said leaked message which is nothing but a figment of his imagination and part of his plans to whittle down the chances of Sheriff becoming the next APC national chairman,” the statement added.

There are plans to ‘unleash more negative media attacks’ on Sheriff as he proceeds with his quest to become the APC national chairman, the statement further alleged.

The statement assured that Sheriff would work amicably and with open heart with everyone, irrespective of religion and tribe, when he becomes APC national chairman.

In apparent pledge of allegiance to President Muhammadu Buhari and APC state governors, the statement said: “Sheriff is in the race for the APC national chairmanship because he wants to take the party to the highest level and to build on the legacies of President Muhammadu Buhari, he will never be in opposition to any APC governors who are the party’s leaders in their respective states because he has great regards for them and cannot work for the opposition PDP.”

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* Sheriff, a controversial politician

Sheriff was elected governor of Borno State in 2003 and reelected for a second term in 2007 on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

After moving to the PDP, he became the party’s acting caretaker chairman in February 2016 but was subsequently removed at the PDP 2016 national convention. He was replaced by a former Kaduna State governor Ahmed Makarfi.

Sheriff was at the centre of a crisis that engulfed the PDP in 2017 after the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on February 17, 2017 declared him the authentic national chairman of the party.

He was finally removed from the office following a Supreme Court verdict which reinstated Makarfi, in July 2017.

The leadership crisis led to the factionalisation of the PDP and in April 2018 members of the Sheriff-led faction of the PDP formally defected to the APC.

The group included senators Hope Uzodinma, Gbemisola Saraki and Teslim Folarin.

Sheriff had been linked to the Boko Haram sect and in 2016 Borno State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice Kaka Shehu Lawan accused him of being responsible for the growth of the dreaded Islamic terrorist group.

Lawan said Sheriff should be arrested and prosecuted.

But the former governor has continued to deny the alleged links to the terror group.

* Sheriff wants APC to rule Nigeria for 50 years

Recently, as part of his campaign for the position of national chairman, Sheriff declared that the aspiration of the APC was to rule Nigeria for the next 50 years.

But he equally declared that the feat would only be possible if a rugged captain was to steer the ship of the party.

Sheriff said he is the rugged captain the APC needs.

He said, “Today, as a party we are only six years in government, our aspiration is for the APC to be in government in the next 30 to 40, 50 years. Doing that doesn’t come on a platter of gold, we need to put in hard work.

“Doing that you need a rugged captain, you don’t need a captain that will capsize. A ship has to be navigated by a knowledgeable person who knows the waters and I believe I can do that for our party if given the opportunity by party men and women who are the decision-makers.”

* Sheriff’s outstanding corruption cases with the EFCC

Sheriff is forging ahead with his quest to become the national chairman of Nigeria’s ruling party despite having outstanding corruption cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Sheriff was arrested by the EFCC in June 2015 for alleged embezzlement of public funds during his time as governor of Borno State.

The EFCC alleged that Sheriff mismanaged over N300 billion received by the Borno State government under his watch from the Federation Account between 2003 and 2011.

Following his arrest, he was detained from June 3 to June 4, 2015 and released on administrative bail without being charged to court.

In March 2018 Sheriff was again quizzed by the EFCC over alleged corruption.

Although the EFCC did not disclose details over which the former governor was questioned by a team of investigators for several hours before being allowed to leave, there were reports that the anti-graft agency was investigating his role in the alleged sharing of N40 million during the 2015 elections when he was in the PDP.

There were also reports that the EFCC was investigating how he raised $72 million (N12 billion) to buy a Gulfstream aircraft, Model G650, after leaving office as governor.

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